Zebras mating with donkeys and reproducing a cross-breed foal is very rare, so rangers were left astonished when they discovered a healthy zonkey with its mother at the Chyulu National Park in Kenya.
The rare foal was spotted by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organization that protects wildlife and helps preserve their natural habitat.
The foal’s unusual appearance and color pattern was initially thought to be as a result of a mud bath, but after rangers took a closer look out of curiosity, they realized it was actually zonkey.
“Working with wildlife, one learns to expect the unexpected,” the organization said in a statement to announce the sighting on March 8. “Even the most seemingly straightforward story can eventually reveal its true stripes and end up surprising us all.”
Explaining how the female zebra found its ass mate, the organization said she wandered out of the Tsavo East National Park to a nearby community where she became acquainted and cohabitated with a local cattle herd for several weeks. After they were informed about the zebra’s activities, they located her and transported her to the Chyulu National Park.
“At this point, the zebra had become fairly habituated to community life, so we had to choose her new home with that in mind,” the statement said.
Rangers frequently spotted the zebra wandering around and grazing in its new habitat, but said it was just the beginning of the year that they saw it with a foal. As the weeks went by, they realized it looked unusual.
“It wasn’t until several weeks later that we finally got a proper sighting of the pair — and that was when her birth announcement revealed a whole new, surprising twist. While zebra foals are born with white and brown stripes that eventually turn black, this little one’s body was suspiciously light on stripes and overwhelmingly tawny in color,” they said.
Upon discovering the foal was a zonkey, the organization said the zebra’s gestation period, which is 12 months, made them easily “connect the dots” and conclude she got intimate with a donkey when she ventured out of the park.
“During her time living within the community last year, she had obviously become acquainted with an amorous donkey,” they said. “The zonkey combines the sturdy body of its donkey sire and the striped legs of its zebra mother, which makes for a striking creature.”
The healthy zonkey, which is expected to “lead a normal life” will, however, be unable to “successfully breed once it reaches maturity” as its kind are mules.
The mother and zonkey are currently cohabitating without any dangers as there aren’t that many predators within their area. The organization says it would remain so until they are discovered by a group of wild zebras, collectively known as zeal.